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An Interview with a Veterinary Dermatologist

By: Stephen Sawicki

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Dr. Richard Anderson is a board-certified veterinary dermatologist working at Angell Memorial Animal Hospital in Boston. Here he speaks about his work.

PetPlace: What kind of ailments do you usually see?

Anderson: I probably see one cat for every nine dogs, with the major problems being dogs that are itchy, have psoriasis, hair loss or odor. We deal with a lot of allergies in animals. We still see a lot of different kinds of mange in dogs, scabies, endocrine problems, hormonal problems, hypothyroidism, Cushing's disease, things like that. It's a big variety. I see mostly referrals, so some of these problems have been going on quite a while and are chronic.

PP: Do your clients always understand the depth of these problems?

Anderson: They can have a hard time relating human problems to dog problems. Often they cannot seem to comprehend why dogs can have allergies or how they could possibly be allergic to their food or how their itch could be related to house dust mites - those sorts of things.

PP: Why so many allergy cases?

Anderson: Maybe it has to do with the breeds we're seeing today. For example, there are a lot of boxers today, where there weren't before, and we see a lot of allergies in that breed. I also think people are probably taking better care of their animals, so they're doing more as far as treatment goes.

PP: Do you have a favorite disease to treat because of its curability rate?
Anderson: Probably my most satisfying disease to deal with in dogs is scabies or sarcoptic mange. The dogs come in really terrible shape, very itchy and suffering, and the owner is suffering right along with them and can even get the mite from the dog. But it's simple to treat and it's very curable.

PP: How about hot spots, those patches of skin made raw by a dog chewing at himself?

Anderson: Some people say the only true emergency in veterinary dermatology is the hot spot. A lot of hot spots start with something simple, such as an insect bite or a superficial bacterial infection, and the dog starts chewing on it. I've used everything from Caladryl lotion, what you use on mosquito bites, to hydrocortisone ointments, to sometimes putting one of those big Elizabethan collars on the dog. But most hot spots do need some kind of veterinary attention because they can get very bad. They can become infected, and they're painful, too.

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